Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Street Food in Egypt

ET came out with a wonderful article on eating out in Egypt this month.

Street Food Done Right
Looking to eat local? Here’s our guide to some of the best places for fuul, koshari, kofta and molokheyya in the city
By Ali El Bahnasawy

A mouth-watering, homemade Egyptian dish is one of a few things that remain on your mind when you leave the country. Along with memories of joking over shisha at a baladi café and those all-night celebrations after an Ahly versus Zamalek match, your mind can’t help but return to the taste of traditional Egyptian cuisine.

Unsurprisingly, Egyptian food is just like Egyptian people: it has many layers. From eats as simple as fuul and tameya, to grilled kebabs and stuffed leaves or fatta (a dish of toasted bread, rice, and meat), Egyptian food has something for everyone. And the best place to find that something is Cairo.

The star of local restaurants offering fine dining Egyptian style is, without a doubt, Abou El-Sid. Posing as a posh fifties dining room from Cairo’s heyday, each restaurant is decorated with colored walls and huge chandeliers, artwork and kitsch fifties-style trinkets. The menu of appetizers, main dishes and desserts is simple but full: Food portions are huge so be careful what you order. The kobeiba comes with baba ghanoug, hitting two birds with one stone, while the stuffed vine leaves with peppermint and yogurt dressing are superb.

Abou El-Sid’s main dishes reflect the general atmosphere. Molokheyya with rice and rabbit is an ultra-traditional dish that you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in town. I don’t know how you feel about paying LE 18 for koshari but if you want to live the experience, expect to pay accordingly.

A newcomer to the Egyptian dining scene is El-Sit Hosneya in Dokki, an Egyptian-Moroccan blend that is comfy but expensive. The menu is similar to Abou El-Sid, but offers eight — yes, eight — different types of fatta. Try the one with the molokheyya. Another option, Kan Zaman in Heliopolis, offers live music and quicker service and equally tasty food, if El-Sid and El-Sit are packed.

If you’re low on cash, you’re in luck. Egyptian cuisine is famous for being both inexpensive and filling. El-Tekkia’s main dishes are between LE 25–55 and the collection of appetizers appeals to those on a budget as well.

If it’s meat you’re looking for, look no further. Egyptians love their grilled meats, from kebab to kofta, chicken and pigeon. Kebab and kofta are the specialties of El-Refaay in Sayeda Zeinab, where seating is in an alley crowded with old wooden chairs and tables. There is always a crowd, and when the bill comes, you’ll understand why all the cars parked in the alley are expensive ones.

For diehard fans of koshari — a famous and unique mix of rice, black lentils, macaroni, fried onion and hot tomato sauce — there’s no shortage of options. But make sure you’re able to pick out the good ones. While the painstakingly commercial Abu Tariq Downtown is known for its celeb visitors, head out to Heliopolis for Koshary Hend. Expect to share a table as a result of the crowds, or ask for a foiled to-go plate and you’ll be full for hours on less than LE 5.

On the other side of Cairo, in Imbaba, is the best destination for cow and camel liver, arguably in the country. El-Brince, an Arabic transliteration for The Prince, is also an excellent outdoor venue in a traditional, crowded Cairo neighborhood. The walls are adorned with photos of the restaurant owner and a gaggle of Egyptian celebrities — certainly a testament to El-Brince’s good food. For the uninitiated, start with the cow liver. The grilled oriental sausage is made with a special sauce that is unmatchable. The molokheyya comes from a specialized cart at the corner of the restaurant and is one of the best in town. Because of its location and service — quick, but impersonal — many expect El-Brince to be cheap. It’s not. Expect to pay no less than LE 50–70, but know that it’s well worth it.

The Details

Abou El-Sid 45 Road 7 Maadi, Cairo Tel: +2 (02) 2380-5050 www.abouelsid.com Open 1pm – 2am every day Other branches in Zamalek, Mohandiseen and CityStars in Nasr City

Khaled Habib

El Sit Hosneya 47 Michel Bakhoum St.Dokki, Cairo Tel: +2 (02) 3338-6007 Open 10am – 2am every day

Kan Zaman 80A El-Thawra St. Heliopolis, Cairo Tel: +2 (02) 2417-0953 Open 10am – 2am every day

El-Brince 79 Taalat Harb St. Ommal City Imbaba, Cairo Tel: +2 (02) 3311-6265 Open 4pm – 2am, every day

Koshary Hend 5 El-Thawra St.Heliopolis, Cairo Tel: +2 (02) 2418-3946 Open 24 hours, every day

El-Refaay 5 Mongy Alley El-Darb El-Gedeed Sayeda Zeinab, Cairo Tel: +2 (02) 2392-6159 / 2390-6996 Open 7pm – 3am every day

El-Tekkia 105 Hegaz St.Heliopolis, Cairo Tel: +2 (02) 2638 4343 Open 1pm – 2am, every day

Fuul Me Up

Mashed mudammas beans, best known as fuul, is probably Egypt’s most prevalent dish. Whether you love it or hate it, it’s a mainstay of the national diet, and can be found everywhere from fuul carts in Imbaba to posh restaurants in Heliopolis. And because of that, Egyptians have mastered the art of preparing fuul dishes of every type. Here are a few ingredients to add a little flavor to your fuul for little money:

Plain with oil, Egg and tomato, Lemon and red pepper, Sweet potato, Mint, Beef, Cheese, Carrot and cucumber, Pastrami


Roqaya said...

I love Abu ElSid's !!!!

Rin Tin Tin said...

For how long you've been in Egypt? And how long you plan to stay? I plan to move there for a while, on the edge of the Red Sea:)

Kim said...

I've been here little over 2 years. How long I'm here depends on how long my husband has a job here. LOL

We live in Cairo

Rin Tin Tin said...

Cute, regards to you and your husband. Will read more of your blog!

madjock said...


I like proper street food, like souvlakia in Greece, falafel in Israel, and the stall in the market square in Marrakech.

Is there an equivalent in Egypt? Last time in Sharm I could only find one, very poor, falafel stand?


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